Happy Friday! With the weekend ahead, I'm sure many of you will be dining out at least once. After working hard all week, we all deserve a little time to let our hair down and socialize with friends. I want to dispel a myth: many people think it's impossible to enjoy a healthy meal when dining out - NOT TRUE! It is absolutely possible to have delicious and healthy meals at a restaurant.
Here are some tips to help you stick to your healthy eating plan while also enjoying your restaurant meal:
Beverages: Say no to soda and juice! If you want something other than water, order unsweetened iced tea or you can have club soda with lemon or lime. One of my favorite tips is to order water and bring essential oils with you to flavor it (good for your wallet and your waistline).
Alcohol: It's okay to indulge a little bit, but avoid sweet drinks and mixers like juice, sugary sodas, sour mix, grenadine, etc... Ideally, I'd go with red wine, but if you must have a cocktail try "skinny" versions made with club soda, muddled fruit, and fresh lemon or lime juice instead of the sweetened mixers.
Start with a salad. Filling up on some greens first is not only good for the nutritional value, but will also make you a bit fuller so you don't eat that entire bowl of pasta. Always make sure you order dressing on the side (ideally use oil and vinegar) because restaurants tend to overdress salads adding quite a few calories.
If the appetizer menu appeals to you, choose options that aren't fried and feature vegetables or lean protein. Great options are shrimp cocktail, ceviche, gazpacho, chicken satay (sauce on the side), grilled calamari, or tomato and mozzarella.
Share! I prefer to try a bunch of different things when I go out to eat. If I'm with someone who is the same way, we'll order a few appetizers and share an entree. This is not only a great way to try different foods, but because you are picking you will eat slower, get fuller faster, and not eat as much while still feeling satisfied.
For entrees, look for foods that are grilled, broiled, or steamed as opposed to fried or sauteed. Things like grilled steak or chicken and even pan seared fish are healthier options than foods cooked in their own fat.
Sandwiches: Get your burger without the bun (and load up on veggie toppings) or substitute a whole wheat roll or wrap for your sandwiches. Another option is to bring two plain rice cakes with you and ask them to put your sandwich on those in place of bread.
Avoid heavy marinades and creamy sauces. If you order a dish that comes with a sauce ask for it on the side so you can moderate the amount that you eat as opposed to having it come already on the dish.
Say no to fries. Choose healthy side dishes like vegetables, salad, or rice. If you MUST have fries, see if the restaurant will prepare them baked instead or convince the rest of your party to share so you can satisfy your craving with only a few.
Request that your food be made with olive oil instead of better.
Don't over eat. Most restaurants serve portions that are much larger than what you should be having. When the plate is delivered ask for a to-go box and immediately put the excess food in it for lunch the next day. Doing this will ensure that you aren't tempted to eat more than you need because it won't be sitting in front of your face.
Avoid pastas. You can always substitute the pasta for rice if you like a particular dish. Another option is to order the pasta dish and something else then share it that way it is more of a side dish so you still get the satisfaction of having a little without making your entire meal a plate of empty calorie carbohydrates.
If you have a sweet tooth, you can still have dessert. Order something fruit based (but not super sugary) like strawberries and whipped cream or sorbet. Dying for that chocolate lava cake? Share it with the table so you can have a few forkfuls without overdoing it. Another great idea is to skip dessert at the restaurant and go grab some frozen yogurt and go for a walk through town/by the water/in the park, etc...
I hope you find these tips helpful when you're dining out! When you work so hard to eat healthy all week, it would be a shame to throw it all away in one restaurant meal. Enjoy your weekend!